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What is a central line?

Doctors use a central line to make it easier to get medications into your bloodstream and to withdraw blood for tests. It is a tube that is surgically inserted into a large vein in the chest or neck, just above the heart. 

There are many types of central lines. The central line may be called a central venous catheter, Hickman catheter or Broviac catheter.

How does the central line work?


  • Your central line will be inserted before you start your preparative regimen. You may have it put in when you enter the hospital, or a few days or weeks before then. 
  • The outside end of the central line may have two or three ports. At various times, IV tubes will be connected to these ports so that medications or blood products can be infused into your bloodstream. It is important that the ends of ports are always sealed off when not in use.
  • Your transplant of bone marrow, peripheral blood stem cells or cord blood cells will be infused through your central line. 
  • The central line will also be used to draw blood for blood tests.
  • Your medical team will use the central line often while you are in the hospital. You will probably still have the central line for a time after you leave the hospital. 
  • While in the hospital, your medical team will keep the central line clean to prevent infections. Your transplant center care team will teach you and your caregiver how to clean the central line when you return home. 

Preventing infections 

It is important to keep the central line and the skin around it clean and dry to prevent infections. Tell your doctor if you see any signs of infection around your central line. Some signs of infection include:

  • Fluid draining around where the tube enters your body
  • Pain, redness or swelling along the tube under the skin
  • Problems flushing the line or getting medications or blood through the line
  • Chills after flushing the line
  • Fever

To learn more about the next step in your transplant process, read Preparative regimen.